Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Viva la Macaron

Yesterday when I got home from work I had a strong desire to be in the kitchen baking up something good and since I didn't have to cook any supper I had all the time I needed. I opened the cupboard and the first two things I saw was a packet of chopped almonds and a bag of icing sugar. A light went off in my head and suddently I had a vision of macarons.

I have yet to try these sweet treats mostly because I've always been afraid that it would be too complicated for a humble home baker like myself. Reading all the comments people had about making macarons at home didn't help much either. I've always hated been a failure and so whenever possible I try to avoid things which I think have a failure possibility.

I thought what the heck I'll just do it for fun (I can be a perfectionist sometimes and take what I do very seriously). I had 20 minutes before the final episode of Ugly Betty season 2 starts. I though I'd get it into the oven before that.

I had printed a few recipes over the past couple of weeks but I knew exactly which one I was going to try. I sprung off the couch to retrieve David Lebovitz recipe for chocolate macarons from my recipe collection. I chose his because it didn't seem too complicated and also because he tried and tested his recipe so many times. To my dismay I couldn't find my book and then I remembered that I had left it at my sister-in-law's place 2 weekends ago (I baked up a storm that weekend). Then it struck me I'll just get it over the internet. I hate reading from screens when I'm baking and prefer to have a hard copy but I really wanted to make these so I went ahead. I looked at the time...and oh my was now 5 minutes before Ugly Betty started.

No time to get the spice grinder which was stored too far out of reach (see I don't have a food processor and I needed it to grind the almonds) so I reached for the hand blender. I knew that it wasn't going to do a very good job of grinding the almonds but I thought what the heck I'm doing this for fun. You will notice the little almond specks on the surface of my macarons.

So I ground the almonds, measured the icing sugar and cocoa, seperated the eggs and then I noticed the tv auto tuning to Ugly Betty - I wasn't about to miss the final episode of a show I so love. I left everything as is and then went into the lounge to watch the final (sob sob) episode (sob sob) of Ugly Betty. This show always gets me in stitches which is sought of therapeutic for me especially on stressful days. My boyfriend doesn't get it and just shakes his head everytime I crack up laughing.

During the first ad break I sifted the ground almonds, cocoa and icing sugar together in a bowl.

During the second ad break I started to whip the eggs but I had just enough time to add the sugar before whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks.

During the third ad break I continued to whip the egg whites and then I thought to hell with that I'm going to watch Ugly Betty in peace so I left everything standing until the credits went up.

I went back into the kitchen - with a heavy heart - to finish my macarons. I whipped the egg whites again cause I wasn't really satisfied with them. Folding in the dry ingredients got me nervous cause I read on David's blog that one wrong fold or one fold too many and then it's all over.

I folded in the dry ingredients carefully, quickly piped little mounds on my baking tray (as you can see by looking at my macarons) which I covered with greaseproof paper and popped them into the oven. I didn't leave them to stand because it was getting late.

I went back to the oven 13 minutes later to take a peek, and what do you know, I saw "feet". I would have sung "I believe I can fly" right there and then but it was late and people were about to sleep so I just gave a quiet shrill, closed the oven door and did a little happy dance. The "feet" on my macarons weren't as well developed as the one's I've seen on the macarons from the great pastry chefs (can Pierre Herme please stand up), but for a first time I would say that I got off on the right foot (no pun intended).

Pierre Hermé's Macaron Chocolat

Some of my dear friends might be wondering what "feet" are and why I was so excited to see them. The "feet" are the "lacy" edges you see around the base of macarons. The reason I was so excited was that I've read so many times of how people couldn't get it right the first time.

When the macarons were done I removed them from the oven and left them to cool to room temperature. I had a "should I shouldn't I" moment when it came to removing the macarons from the parchment paper. See I've read how people have had some trouble removing their macarons from the paper. I couldn't decide whether I should remove them with a spatula while they were still warm or if I should just leave them to cool and remove them later. I left them to cool for about 20 minutes and then what do you's time for happy dance number 2. I managed to peel off the macarons (carefully and slowly) without any trouble.

I wasn't going to do the prune filling the recipe called for and I didn't have any chocolate for the ganache so I decided to make chocolate buttercream. I threw (by now I'm tired with no energy for measuring) some butter, milk, cocoa and icing sugar into a bowl and whisked to a nice creamy buttercream. Surprisingly the buttercream turned out great and I regreted not paying attention to the amounts of ingredients I added. It wasn't too sweet, was the right consistency and had just the right level of richness and chocolate goodness. I thougjht I was going to be disappointed with using buttercream instead of the ganache but I found it quite satisfying.

I can't wait to try these again using the proper techniques called for in the recipe. I know I'm going to be making these again and again so don't frown when you see too many posts on macarons.


katskitchen said...

Your macaroons look great! Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Diane said...

Thanks. I'm so glad to have joined daring bakers. I've seen some of the challenges and can't wait to start my first one this month

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

thanks for the drive by
i used to live in sa

westbrook beach Umshalanga (sp)

anbd green point in cape town

Diane said...

Sorry but I was sort of having one of those dumb moments. I replied to your comment in the wrong post. Well at least you've lived in sunny Durban if you meant Umhlanga that is. Umhlanga is north of Durban.